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Belgium sues Congolese women for forced separations

by Lester Blair
Five Congolese mixed-heritage women sit in a Belgian court. Photo: 14 October 2021
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Five Congolese-born women are now suing Belgium over crimes against humanity.

Mixed-race women of mixed race were removed from their mothers 70 years ago purely on the grounds of skin colour.

From the 19th century, Belgium ruled the country in central Africa until its independence in 1960.

During colonial rule, millions of Africans were killed.

It was a time when most children of mixed race were not acknowledged by their fathers. They were also not permitted to interact with the wider community. Numerous children were sent to religious orphanages, or other institutions for the poor.

However, the Belgian government contests that their current predicament was an act of violence against humanity.

These five women weren’t brought to Belgium by the Republic of the Congo (as it was known at the time) when the country gained its independence in 1960.

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Léa, Monique, Simone, Noëlle and Marie-Josée are asking for an initial sum of €50,000 (£42,312; $57,964) in reparations from the former colonial power.

Additionally, they want to nominate an expert for further moral damages.

Officially, the Belgian government apologised in 2019 for its actions in Congo. The then Prime Minister Charles Michel acknowledged that there was “targeted discrimination”.

Monique Bitu Biingi was one of five women who went to court. She said that they were “devastated.” Although it’s easy to make apologies, when something is done wrong you need to accept responsibility.

Five women, all five of them females, were born between 1945-1950 and took from their mothers when they turned two years old.

Legal documents show that their fathers did not recognize the children, and that colonial authorities threatened to retaliate against their mothers if they didn’t allow them to go.

On Thursday, the case was being reviewed in Brussels. There is potential for additional hearings.

Source: BBC.com

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